Device uses nose shape to sniff out terrorists

Posted by Emma Woollacott

You can tell this idea came from a country where they're not big on plastic surgery. Scientists at the UK's University of Bath reckon that noses are a better way of identifying people than iris or fingerprint scans.

Dr Adrian Evans - himself in possession of a rather noble hooter -  used a photographic system called PhotoFace to scan the 3D shape of volunteers’ noses. His team then used software to analyse them according to six main shapes: Roman, Greek, Nubian, Hawk, Snub and Turn-up.

The researchers used three characteristics in their analysis - the ridge profile, the nose tip, and the nasion, or section between the eyes - to produce a ratio that was then used to distinguish between a database of 36 people.

Whilst this was a small sample, the researchers found that there was a good recognition rate and a faster rate of image processing than with conventional biometric techniques such as whole face recognition.

Dr Evans said: "There’s no one magic biometric – irises are a powerful biometric, but can be difficult to capture accurately and can easily be obscured by eyelids or glasses.

"Noses, however, are much easier to photograph and are harder to conceal, so a system that recognises noses would work better with an uncooperative subject or for covert surveillance."

The system works by taking photos lit by a flash from several different angles so that four images are taken in very rapid succession of every point on the face, each under different controlled lighting conditions.

The Bath researchers plan in the future to build up a larger database and refine the software to see if it can pick out individuals from a larger group of people, or distinguish between relatives from the same family.